|CJP’s Rebuttal on Media Coverage of Supreme Court Proceedings|
Statement by Citizens for Justice and Peace, Mumbai, April 14, 2009, Mumbai
The report in sections of the national media dated April 14, 2009, alleging that NGOs, Teesta etc misled the apex court and exaggerated the violence in Gujarat in 2002 are clear example of irresponsible reportage. Intentionally or otherwise, the distorted report damages the reputation of a citizens’ group that has been recognized nationally and internationally for working assiduously to ensure justice to the victims of mass violence whether in case of the Gujarat carnage (2002), or the bomb blasts in Mumbai (2006 and 2008) or the communal carnage in Kandhamal district, Orissa (2008), irrespective of the caste or creed of the victims or the perpetrators.
In its written note that the Gujarat state circulated in court yesterday, the state has given its brief comments on the SIT report. In para four of this note the Gujarat government note refers to alleged statements made by some witnesses in the Gulberg case before SIT that name accused other than those named by them in the written statements that were (according to the state of Gujarat) given to them by Teesta Setalvad and advocates. This is the version of the Gujarat state. Besides this, Mukhul Rohatgi tried to make a populaist speech in court saying that incidents like the Kauser Bano case etc never happened. The Supreme Court disregarded this argument and did not allow Mr.Rohatgi to read anything from the report. The court went on to state that they were not interested in personal allegations and only ensuring that, like in the course of the Zahira Shaikh case, the trials are fair, the truth comes out and the course of justice is served.
It is necessary to recalled that in the course of the Best Bakery trial, too, the Gujarat government had tried to divert the court’s attention by engineering charges against Teesta Setalvad, secretary CJP and by implication the NGO. On Setalvad’s application to the apex court for a full fledged inquiry the report of the Registrar of the apex court exonerated Setalvad and the NGO completely.
As reported by the rest of the national media, on Monday, ignoring Sri Rohatgi’s bid to side-step the main issues, the three-member bench of the Supreme Court remained focused on the modalities of setting up designated courts for the trial of the accused in the post-Godhra riot cases in Gujarat. Instead of highlighting the court proceedings, Sri Mahapatra chose to spice up his report focusing not on the deliberations or the intentions of the apex court but to promote the case of the Gujarat government.
The moot question is whether or not 2,500 persons were killed in a ghastly perpetrated massacre following the tragic burning alive of 59 persons on the Sabarmati express; whether or not ex parliamentarian Ahsan Jafri was mutilated before being burnt alive, whether the bodies of the missing dead (over 220) have not been found or returned for dignified burial after seven long years? All the national media was witness to this national tragedy.
In the interests of fair reportage and to ensure that the reputation of a citizens group committed to equity and justice is not deliberately vitiated before the trials commence, the media should carry this rebuttal in full. A failure to do so will result in the columns of a national newspaper being used to distort facts, shape public perception and seek to influence the outcome of due process of law and justice to the victims of mass murder.
We wish also that the following issues
Pertinent issues ignored in these reports:
* The arrests of minister Dr Maya Kodnani and Dr Jaideep Patel in the past weeks were on the basis of SIT re-investigations. Twelve FIRs filed by witnesses naming these accused in 2002 had been clubbed into a magnum FIR by the Ahmedabad crime branch that had dropped the names of these powerful accused;
* The arrests of investigating officer KG Erda in the Gulberg case and of other policemen in the other cases over the past months has meant the claims of witness survivors and legal rights groups, prima facie, are valid;
* That this was one of the issues why the apex court has chosen to appoint SIT, the full scale subversion of the process of justice, from the removal of names of accused who’s names appeared in earlier statements simply because they enjoyed political patronage; the appointment of prosecutors with allegiances to the BJP and VHP which meant instead of promoting fair trial they sided with the politically powerful and protected accused;
* More pertinently the tragic slaying of pregnant Kauser Bano at Naroda Patiya after slitting her womb was reported in Deccan Herald,(April 17, 2004) and The Indian Express, (March 23,2005) among others apart from finding place in innumerable reports including the one authored by the Concerned Citizens Tribunal-Crimes Against Humanity 2002 headed by two Supreme Court judges, Justices Krishna Iyer and PB Sawant. Similarly the British national case was similarly documented apart from being covered in The Pioneer, March 3, 2002 and The Hindu, April 23, 2002.
Teesta Setalvad, I.M. Kadri, Arvind Krishnaswamy, Javed Akhtar, Cyrus Guzder, Alyque Padamsee, Anil Dharker, Nandan Maluste, Javed Anand, Rahul Bose, Cedric Prakash